“He is not here, for He has risen as He said.” Matthew 28:6
Jesus burst the bonds of death through the mighty power of God early on a Sunday morning. He saw Mary Magdalene first and two disciples on the road to Emmaus, then all the disciples save Thomas, then all the disciples with Thomas, somewhere in there he appeared to Peter, and James, and Paul tells us that more than 500 at one time witnessed his being alive. But the appearances were relatively rare, given the many days between His resurrection and ascension.
The question arises out of our own kind of thinking, why not appear to Pilate? Why not to the chief priests, to all those who wanted him crucified, yelling vociferously to make it happen; why not to all who mocked and scorned him, why not to the soldiers who tortured him, forcing a crown of sharp, inch long thorns down on his head, causing the blood to run into his eyes and face? Why not throw the truth back in their faces? “See you deniers and mockers, I did rise from the dead as I said I would! You were so wrong!”
Rather, Jesus appeared only to his friends, to those who faithfully followed him, to the disciples who walked by his side for three years. What would our own sense of revenge, or pride cause each of us to do differently than Jesus?
Remember the ruling council of the Jews paid bribe money to the soldiers concerning the undeniable circumstances at Jesus’ tomb to get them to tell a false story, spreading it abroad among the public. They purposely and willingly ignored and denied all the undeniable indications of Jesus’ actual resurrection. If he really did rise from the dead, they stupidly thought, we will kill him again! Just as they planned and purposed to kill Lazarus, who had been raised to life after clearly dying, all to dissuade anyone from following Jesus! Their thinking because of hardened unbelief became entirely convoluted.
The enemies of Jesus were committed to their unbelief. They were so committed that even Jesus standing before them with outstretched hands clearly showing the scars of the nail holes would not turn them from their unbelief! Truth alone does not dissuade from unbelief in hard rebels, in those who are as the Scripture states “depraved by sin.” Unbelief is a fixed frame of mind even if you think confrontation with the truth will change you. It is a hardened conviction, one that cannot be pierced, even if the facts are right in front of your eyes. What does it take to break this stranglehold of unbelief? What is capable of piercing the mindset of “I will not believe even if angels from heaven, or God himself appears and speaks to me; I am committed to not believing!”
The answer lies in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. I am sure Nicodemus was among those 500+ who witnessed the living Lord after his resurrection. Jesus told him in their conversation that night, “Nicodemus, you must be born again! The Spirit of God must pierce your hard unbelief and spark a regeneration in your soul before you will be able to believe. It is not enough to see the truth of what is, to persuade you differently; new birth is absolutely necessary.” So Jesus said to him, “Nicodemus, You MUST be born again!”
The resurrection of Jesus is one of the most attested truths in history. Numerous attempts have been made to discredit the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. Regardless, people believe what their frame of mind tells them. The facts alone will not persuade them to believe. Short of a new birth in their soul, an unbeliever will not accept the resurrection of Jesus or allow it to impact their life for eternity. Their response will not be one of submitting to the Lordship of Jesus and committing everything in their being to Him as they ought.
This is the desired result of confronting and accepting the stupendous fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead; a changed life, a life devoted to the Lord of life. But it will never happen in any unregenerate person. Seeing Jesus walking, breathing, talking would not change Pilate’s heart and life, anymore than the scornful chief priests, or any today who are not now committed to Jesus as their Master and Lord. Jesus’ Easter Sunday resurrection only communicates to and is loved by those who know the truth of being born again by the Spirit of God. The resurrection resonates only in the lives of those who have been born again. Easter makes no difference to those who do not know this new birth.
“Death cannot keep his prey–Jesus my Savior, he tore the bars away–Jesus my Lord. Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes. he arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever with his saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!”
(3rd verse of Robert Lowry’s hymn, “Up From the Grave He Arose,” 1874)